Launa Hochstetler's (Hiland, Ohio/Berlin H.S.) free throw with 37.8 seconds remaining gave Valpo the lead and Akron missed a shot at the buzzer as the Crusaders held on for a 50-49 victory over the Zips on Wednesday evening in Akron, Ohio.
The Crusaders had a 10-point second half lead, only to see the Zips rally to take a lead late before the dramatic final minute.
The first half was close throughout with a pair of ties and five lead changes. Valpo struggled shooting the ball, connecting on just 32% of its attempts from the floor while making just 4-of-9 from the free throw line. With neither team leading by more than four the entire stanza, the Crusaders made a late move.
Trailing 17-16 with four minutes to play in the half, a late 7-2 surge put the Brown and Gold up 23-19 at the break. Betsy Rietema (Grand Rapids, Mich./Christian H.S.) made a lay-in as time expired to give Valpo its four-point advantage.
Four turnovers and a blocked shot defensively for the Brown and Gold helped Valpo extend its lead straight out of the locker room. The Crusaders took advantage, scoring the first six points of the half to build the lead to 10, 29-19, just over two minutes into the period.
The Zips cut the deficit to six as Valpo went nearly four minutes without scoring. The lead remained around six until a quick spurt by Akron tied the game at 40 with 6:14 to play. Akron took the lead, 49-47, with 1:44 to play on a Niki McCoy hoop. Rietema immediately tied the game inside with 1:15 to play.
The Crusaders got a defensive stop, and Hochstetler, playing in front of her hometown fans, split a pair of free throws with 37.8 seconds remaining to put Valpo on top by one. The Crusaders again forced a miss, but with 4.8 seconds remaining missed a pair of free throws with a chance to build upon the lead.
Niki McCoy had a chance to win at the buzzer for Akron (1-3), but her 10-footer rolled around and fell out as the Crusaders escaped with the victory.
Valpo finished the game shooting 36.5% from the floor compared with the Zips 35.7% for the contest.
Rietema led Valpo with 12 points while Sarah Ott (Chippewa Falls, Wis./Chippewa Falls H.S.) added 10 more. Tamra Braun (Savage, Minn./Prior Lake H.S.) had a game-high nine rebounds to go along with eight points.
Sarah Tokodi led Akron with 19 points, 14 in the second half, while Lauren Stephenson added 12 more.
Valparaiso (2-2) will return to the court on Tuesday evening as the Crusaders entertain Bradley at the Athletics-Recreation Center. Tip-off against the Braves is set for 7:05 p.m. with all the action carried live on WVUR (95.1-FM, Valparaiso) and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics.